On the island of O’ahu, AKA ‘The Gathering Place’, Honolulu has long drawn international visitors with promises of sunny beaches and reliable waves. But there’s far more to Hawaii’s capital city than surfing. Live like a local and discover Honolulu with our pick of the hidden gems and secret spots in and around the city.
1. Halona Cove
With regular waves breaking perfectly for beginners’ surf lessons, Waikiki beach is one of the first beaches that visitors to Honolulu flock to. Instead of joining the crowds, head to the beach at Halona Cove. It requires a little hike to reach, but that helps to keep it a quiet, secluded spot. Its pristine natural beauty has caught the eye of the movie industry, though – scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean and 50 First Dates have been shot here.
2. Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill
Literally surrounded by coral reefs and an ocean teeming with fish, the seafood in Hawaii is always fresh. Just around the corner from the Honolulu Fish Auction, Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill is one of the best places to get your local fish fix – this place is loved by locals, visitors and fishermen alike! Depending on what’s been caught earlier that day, you can tuck into delicious dishes of ahi, snapper, mahimahi, shrimp and sashimi.
3. First Fridays in Chinatown
On the first Friday of every month, Honolulu parties. Many of the trendy boutique stores and hipster galleries in Chinatown stay open late and host free events throughout the lively evenings, while the cafés, restaurants and bars prepare for a bustling late night. Head downtown and join an art walk, explore a local craft market, attend an exhibition or watch live music.
4. Likeke Falls
O’ahu might not be as famous for spectacular waterfalls as some of the other Hawaiian islands, but just a half hour’s drive from Honolulu the two-tiered Likeke Falls is still pretty beautiful. Follow the trail and take a short hike up through the emerald green rainforest, enjoying the mountain scenery as you go. When you arrive, it’ll be hard to resist taking a dip in the pool!
5. Happy Cakes
Made with local pineapple, macadamia nuts and coconut, Happy Cakes are a slice of Hawaiian paradise. Now a key part of Honolulu life for locals and visitors alike, the freshly baked sweet treats are on sale daily at the bakery in town and at the Farmers Market every Saturday morning. What the locals don’t want you to know, though, is you can also pick up a slice from the owner and baker himself; Owen O’Callahagn lives on Walina Street, and you can make an appointment to purchase a baked-to-order cake (or three) from his home kitchen.
6. Baileys Antiques & Aloha Shirts
If you’re looking to purchase a Hawaiian shirt to remember your time on the island by, there’s only one place in Honolulu to go. With over 15,000 different styles of ‘aloha’ shirt, alongside a huge range of antiques and souvenirs, you could get lost in this famous, colourful emporium.
7. Street Art
Every year in the spring, POW! Festival is a celebration of street art and both local and international talent. Artists and designers unleash their creativity on a selection of walls in Honolulu, from alleyways to the sides of large stores, and create huge vibrant murals. The street art stays up until the festival returns the next year, when the whole process is repeated and a collection of brand new murals decorate the city. For some of the largest designs, take a walk down Ala Moana Boulevard, Cooke Street and Pohukaina Street.
8. Moku o Lo‘e (Coconut Island)
On the eastern coast just a thirty-minute drive from central Honolulu, the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology offers public tours of its scientific research facilities on the beautiful little island of Moku o Lo‘e (Coconut Island) each Sunday. Here you can spend a few hours exploring, quizzing scientists to find out about the work they do, see the fish and sharks in the research pools, and learn about what’s going on underwater around Hawaii.
9. Lyon Arboretum
Just a short drive from downtown Honolulu, Lyon Arboretum is a lush celebration of Hawaiian and tropical vegetation. Hiking trails wind through the beautiful 200-acre estate and botanical gardens, which even include an artificial tropical rainforest. It is managed by the University of Hawaii at Mānoa and is open to the public on weekdays.
10. Kaka’ako Farmers Market
Every Saturday between 8am and 12pm the Kaka’ako Farmers Market is open for business. If you’re after fresh produce, the stalls here heave with delicious treats and locally-grown fruit and vegetables – right in the heart of Honolulu on Ala Moana Boulevard. Whether you’re picking up some freshly-churned butter, a bag of sun-ripened mangoes or a handful of bright flowers, you can be sure that the money you’re spending is supporting family farmers and small producers on the island!